Jumpei Yasuda, a journalist who returned to Japan last week after more than three years of captivity in Syria, on Monday gave further details of his time as a hostage, including how he believes another foreigner was also being held at the facility.
The 44-year-old Japanese freelance journalist said that the detention facility was “huge,” rising five stories above the ground, and had a basement floor. He thought the building was formerly used as a prison or government office. He also said he heard from a member of a militant group who was serving as a prison guard that the location of the building was Jabal al-Zawiya.
Yasuda has been staying at a hospital since returning to Japan on Thursday night. He is expected to hold a news conference soon, with the media eager to know the details of how he was captured, treated and released by a militant group after going missing following his entry into Syria in 2015.
The detention facility had many small rooms inside and each had a toilet. “There were walls that seem to have been installed afterwards,” Yasuda said. At the office room of the facility, there was a logo of the al-Qaida-linked group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Levant Liberation Committee, which was formed from a merger of the Nusra Front and other militant groups.
The logo was displayed as if they wanted to “show it off,” he recalled.
A Canadian man was staying “two doors away” from Yasuda’s room and the journalist said he believes the person was Sean Moore, who was released on Feb. 5. Moore was quoted as telling Canadian media that he was kept for about a month in a cell that felt “like a coffin.”
Yasuda seems to have been in a similar situation, previously telling reporters that his life during captivity “could only be described as abuse.” Yasuda said he was not allowed to bathe in water for six months and sometimes given “canned food without an opener” when militant group members were “in a bad mood.”
His living conditions, including meals and clothing, could easily change for the worse depending on who took care of him that day, he said earlier during an interview on board a flight from Turkey to Japan. Yasuda also said during the journey from the southern Turkish city of Antakya to Istanbul that during his captivity he felt like he was in “hell” and gradually lost self-control, according to Reuters.